I’m having a hard time shaking the feeling that this was more about the Celtics playing horrible basketball than anything else. Credit the Raptors for earning the win, but this was the worst I’ve seen Boston play all season. And I watched every second of its loss to an Eric Gordon-less Hornets team.

The difference in energy was evident from the tip. With the Celtics coming off an emotionally and physically draining overtime loss against the Lakers, Toronto attacked early with crisp passes and a hop in its collective step. Jose Calderon and James Johnson led the way, combining for 16 of the Raptors’ first 20 points. Boston helped out by turning the ball over, walking through its offensive sets, and providing little resistance in the paint. The Raptors raced out to a 25-9 lead. I hate simplifying like this, but it was essentially over at that point. A Mickael Pietrus corner three made it 26-14 after one, and Boston never seriously threatened after that.

Calderon was the most important Raptor, finishing with 17 points on 7-12 shooting and 14 assists. In the first quarter, Jack Armstrong talked about howplaying heavy minutes in a compressed season has made it hard for Calderon to get his legs under him. Tonight, that wasn’t an issue. I’m sure I’ll never type this again: he looked younger than Rajon Rondo in this game. He got into the paint when he wanted to, and when the Celtics’ defense broke down, he was able to find his teammates for easy finishes. The Celtics’ defense broke down a lot.

DeMar DeRozan led the team in scoring with 21 and he did it efficiently: 7-13 from the field, 7-7 from the line. It’s always great to see DeRozan being aggressive and getting calls. To my eyes, he’s picking his spots a lot better over the last few games. It’s great to be back at that point where you expect every midrange jumper of his to go in, too.

Did you catch DeRozan’s lefty hook over Garnett in the third quarter? I freaked out. That was a tough shot and he’s now made a few impressive plays with his left hand over the past week. Guess he’s been working on it.

Linas Kleiza continues to make little sense. He looked awful in the second quarter, but hit three threes in the fourth, proving a valuable zone-buster. Amir Johnson didn’t miss from the field and had a double-double without any plays called for him. James Johnson’s two blocks early in the fourth were fun. Aaron Gray grabbed 11 rebounds!

I miss Jerryd Bayless. There was no way the Celtics should have been in this game with how they were playing, yet a comeback felt like a possibility when Anthony Carter was out there. I actually like that Carter is on this roster, but the offense stagnated like crazy when he was in charge. The -15 in 10:40 was not a fluke. Also, I’ve been more forgiving with Rasual Butler than just about anyone I know in Toronto — he was brought in to provide veteran leadership and set an example on defense, that’s it — but I must admit something: when he fired up a three on the wing with 17 seconds on the shot clock and no rebounders on the inside, I wanted to break something. Carter and Butler combined to shoot 0-7 from the field.

The Raptors didn’t play a great game. They only made five of their 19 threes and there were stretches where they looked even sloppier than Boston. Still, they beat a more talented opponent. They came out with the proper intensity to take advantage of a tired team. They build the quick lead they needed and the Celtics could never climb out of that hole. Let’s see what happens against an angry Lakers team on Sunday.

Some Celtics notes:

  • This particular game did nothing for my “Rondo was snubbed for the All-Star Game” argument. In 40 minutes, he shot 2-10 and had five turnovers to go along with his seven assists. He’s usually one of my favorite players to watch. Tonight, it was painful. He was passive, obviously tired, and I think his wrist might still be affecting him. I wouldn’t pin the loss on him, but I do think he could have made a big difference in the first quarter by putting some pressure on the Raptors’ defense.
  • I’ve scarcely seen Doc Rivers as furious as he was in the first quarter. Peeved at how the team failed to execute out of a timeout with just over three minutes to go, he called another timeout just seven seconds into the possession and stormed onto the court, screaming at his guys. It was 20-7 at that point. If that was meant to get his team engaged, it didn’t work.
  • Kevin Garnett gave DeRozan a little shove/bump in the fourth quarter after a whistle. DeRozan had a few words and a smile for the future Hall of Famer, secure in the fact that his team was headed for a win. I enjoyed this.
  • Garnett was the Celtics’ best player, with 17 points, eight rebounds, and a few nice passes from the high-post. The team also looked completely different defensively with him on the bench. The Chris Wilcox/JaJuan Johnson frontline absolutely cannot get major minutes against good teams.
  • It was weird watching Ray Allen and Paul Pierce look so slow coming off screens.
  • Avery Bradley played only seven minutes, but perhaps should have played more. He played his brand of pressure defense and briefly bothered Calderon more than Rondo did all night. He’s still a major work in progress offensively; if he comes around on that end, he will be a way above average backup guard.
  • Ppellico

    No…not a very good recap, sorry.
    You wanna talk about weary to THIS team with ITS schedule vs schedules of other NBA teams they faced?
    Now THAT is weary!
    They had a schedule with a road trip which included a game after agame after a game…against teams who only had to sit and wait for them after another home practice.
    That was horrible and THIS team had to endure it.

    So please…a little less pity for the Celts.

    What really happened was they couldn’t get inside and we stopped them..finally..around the preimeter.

    Gray had 7 rebounds in his first 5 minutes…
    He and Amir played a fantastic center/PF combo.

    THAT was the real surorise move by Caey…

    Enough of the poor tired Celtics!

    • mountio

      I dont have any pity for the C’s at all. But, there is no doubt that they just sucked ass last night. Countless missed 8-10 footers and a number of bounce passes that were so far off the mark they took one bounce and went straight out of bounds .. no one even got a finger on them. Thats got nothing to do with the raps D or effort (which btw was solid.. but none the less.
      Its not to say the raps (and everyone else) has had brutal schedules .. its just to say that a bunch of games this year (especially against the old teams) are more about when you catch them than they are about whether you play good or not on a certain night.

    • Copywryter

      Did you watch the game? The Celtic were clearly tired and totally out of sorts. They stopped themselves.

      And yeah, our schedule has seen us play the most road games in the NBA but this was not one of them. We’re one of the youngest teams in the NBA and frankly we’ve been mostly shit on the road.

    • http://twitter.com/ryanmcneill Ryan McNeill

      Really? The Celtics arrived at their hotel at 3:30 in the morning. How could that not come into play when Toronto had Thursday off besides practice? C’mon, man.

    • GARY BROWN

      THANK YOU!!!  I co-sign this statement.

  • Cantdl

    it was part fatigue but more JO being out of the lineup and the aging celtics on a back to back. i’d like to see raptors bring that effort against the no name teams.

  • JHP

    Been around a while and before the big three got together Boston was very bad for a long time.  Last night reminded me of those years and to be honest you really can not beat father time.  So expect both the Lakers and Celtics to be beating the bushes for a team to unload their aging stars on.

    • WHAT THE

      Raps could use Ray Ray

  • ardefen

    gray does well with what he has. be nice to see him against laker bigs tomorrow. why does butler see any floor time atall; apart from being horrible he always looks fairly smug as if he is an important part of the team. carter, painful to watch, 6 shots and 6 misses, slow and a step behind. the rest, what a great bunch, proud to have them as raptors, lots of effort also.

  • Copywryter

    Avery Bradley has a bad shoulder and couldn’t handle heavy minutes. Doc was just looking for a spark. I’m surprised he put him in there at all as it was clear Boston had very little in the tank. The overtime Lakers game the night before (excellent game, btw) clearly drained both teams, as the Lakers had a weak effort against the Knicks as well. That Lin kid is definitely for real though.

  • cesco

     Funny that after a win there is no critique about individual players , at least those that see the floor regularly , but after a loss the team is full of scrubs , Casey is a poor coach and BC could not make a good trade or pick even with all the stars properly aligned .

  • 511

    I agree with Ppellico up top, all of it. The Celtics are obviously tired and worn out and it would’ve been all kinds of wrong to lose that game to them, but they ARE the kind of team that so often finds a way to get themselves back into a game like this and if not for the focused effort by a group of players that, let’s face it, totaled up, are not near the equal of the Celtics, but last night the Raps went out with some purpose (avenge that last 36 pt drubbing) and they had them right from the start and held them down for the whole game. So, credit to Casey and the players. Maybe they all learned a little something last night. Now, if they can do a similar job on the Lakers tomorrow afternoon, this wknd, that I had figured to be gruesome (esp since seeing that Bayless would be out last night, as well as Bargs), will have been quite alright. And then, bring on Lin and the Knicks! For a season that only a day ago, I was really starting to dislike (I held back on a nasty ranty post, glad I did), it almost feels like good times. Lol. 

  • Ppellico

    well…I am willing to accept the response of a few here that indeed the Celtics were tired and they played 2 in a row.
    However…NOBODY had any pity on the Raps when they…and you can look it up cause its real…played 70 percent of their games on the road verses teams who had been playing 70 percent AT HOME.The raps were given no pity. They were simply pounded.

    To be able to be at home after this lockout instead of on the road means everything…aboslutely everything.
    It was a horrible NBA shedule that was dished out.

    And it was a reason I have always stated nobody will see the REAL NBA until well into the season…maybe not until after the AllStar weekend. Maybe then the teams will have had enough time to know each other.

    Now to so quickly dismiss this is wrong.
    Nobody cared when it was you getting weary due to schedule, so I give a damn about them after just a 2 day.

    And the inside defense was wonderful for the Raps…and this makes for poor shooting percentages from the opposition.

    Just saying…

  • WHAT THE

    The Raptors are 7-2 when leading at the half

  • thatpeterguy

    The Celtics played like crap, no doubt.  But lets not forget we were without our best player in Bargnani and one of our best offensive weapons in Bayless.  I don’t care how recently they played or how mentally drained they were, that Celtics team with their big 4 should be able to beat us regardless.  Last nights win was great to see because it was done against a much better team with a few guys with good potential, a couple reclamation projects and a bench filled with scrubs.  For them to put it together to beat the C’s is something close to impressive.    

  • cjmcdnld

    Anyone else notice that Raptors Republic posts never show up on the TrueHoop “The Latest from the TrueHoop Network” list?

    When I click the link on the main TrueHoop page, I get this page:

    http://raptorsrepublic.com/2009/04/29/blogger-knows-best/ 

    Something might be screwed up there…

    • cesco

       Something might be screwed up here at RR . In almost 3 years no one has reminded Truehoop to update their link ? . Unbelievable .